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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS : GOVERNOR : Brown Runs on Empty; Leader Wilson Coasts : With funds nearly depleted, Democratic challenger hopes a Clinton appearance in L.A. and anti-Prop. 187 fervor will spur a rally. But the governor appears confident as the race heads into its final days.

November 05, 1994|BILL STALL and AMY WALLACE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Starved for cash, the Kathleen Brown campaign for governor appeared to be running on the sheer energy of the candidate Friday, counting on a surge of support from President Clinton and a big anti-Proposition 187 vote to carry her to victory over incumbent Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

Wilson was ending his campaign for a second term much as he has in past statewide elections--calm, confident, and sitting on what seemed to be a relatively comfortable lead in most public opinion polls. Wilson and his GOP ticket-mates gathered in Sacramento for an evening rally to kick off a weekend tour of major California media markets.

Clinton flew to California for a second time to plug the Democratic ticket headed by Brown and Sen. Dianne Feinstein--first at a big rally in front of Los Angeles City Hall on Friday evening and today in Oakland--both areas where Democrats need substantial majorities to win.

Speaking on Brown's behalf to an estimated 2,000 people at City Hall, Clinton called on Californians to elect her so he will have a governor he can work with.

"I need a partner here," Clinton said, "somebody who's going to work for California."

In Sacramento, acting Secretary of State Tony Miller predicted a higher voter turnout Tuesday than in the last gubernatorial election. Miller estimated that 60.2% of California's 14.7 million registered voters would vote Tuesday or cast absentee ballots by then. The turnout in 1990, when Wilson defeated Feinstein for governor by 3.5%, was 58.6%.

Miller attributed the projected increase--in contrast to a record low turnout in the June primary--to the vigorous campaign over Proposition 187, the petition measure that proposes to cut off state-financed health, education and social services to illegal immigrants.

"Not since Proposition 13 on the ballot in the 1978 primary has there been this degree of engagement by voters on both sides of a measure," Miller said, referring to the property-tax cutting measure that rocked California politics and fiscal policy through the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Traditionally, a higher turnout helps Democrats. But Wilson campaign spokesman Dan Schnur said that interest in Proposition 187 was motivating as many supporters of the initiative--mostly Republicans--to go to the polls as opponents, who are mostly Democrats.

Brown, the 49-year-old state treasurer, continued to tie her campaign closely to opposition of Proposition 187, which is backed by Wilson.

In appearances in San Diego and Sacramento, Brown described proponents of the measure as "those of narrow vision, those of mean spirit, those of short sights."

But by defeating the initiative, she said, "Californians have a chance on Tuesday to turn on the lights against the darkness of racial division, fear and intolerance."

The Brown campaign also announced that two new campaign commercials ready to be aired Friday were being held over the weekend, apparently for lack of funds. The ads will run statewide Monday, spokesman John Whitehurst said, but he declined to say how often they would run or where.

Brown ads planned for today and Sunday on two major Los Angeles television stations were either canceled or pulled by the Brown campaign for lack of funds, the stations said. Schnur, the Wilson aide, said this was tantamount to running up a "white flag of surrender" in the race.

But Brown told reporters in Sacramento: "I am just fine. I have plenty of resources to carry me over the finish line victoriously. . . . If you notice in the polls, I am moving up in spite of the fact of being outspent by over $5 million in the last three weeks."

Brown cited a poll by KNBC-TV in Los Angeles that showed her closing to within 4% of Wilson.

However, the results of a poll conducted for KCBS-TV and broadcast Thursday evening put Wilson on top by 18%. In both the major independent statewide surveys--the Los Angeles Times Poll and the Field Poll conducted in late October--Wilson led by 9% among likely voters.

Wilson opened the day Friday by again demonstrating his ability to use his incumbency to complement his campaign. In his official role as governor, Wilson celebrated the reopening of the final segment of the giant Golden State-Antelope Valley Freeway interchange in the Newhall Pass that was severely damaged in the Northridge earthquake in January.

After the quake, political experts speculated on how long it would take the state to repair the damage and suggested that angry motorists backed up on detours in the first week in November might take out their frustration on the governor at the ballot box.

Wilson ordered state highway officials to cut red tape in letting contracts and getting the damaged freeways reopened as soon as possible. Friday's ceremony marked completion of the job, officials said.

"We got government out of the way to expedite recovery," Wilson told about 200 onlookers. While Wilson shared credit for fixing the freeways with the federal government, he also sneaked in an election-year plug on the California economy: "Unemployment is falling in California . . . and here in Los Angeles County, which has been hardest hit. That's because the people of this area refuse to take it lying down."

Later, Brown issued a statement saying that California in fact lost jobs during the last month and that jobs created during the period primarily were low-paying service positions and in the public sector.

Times political writer Cathleen Decker in Los Angeles and staff writers Henry Chu in the San Fernando Valley and Carl Ingram in Sacramento contributed to this story.

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